Who bought the most powerful commercial supercomputer? Come on, it's Total-ly obvious

Well, oil be damned. Faster computers, faster apocalypse?

French oil and gas supermajor Total will be seeking to pump even more flammable stuff out of the ground after purchasing the world's most powerful commercial supercomputer from IBM.

The Pangea III system is based on Big Blue's Power9 processors and benches 25 petaFLOPS, placing it at 11th in the latest Top500 worldwide supercomputer rankings behind the beasts that were developed for governments and academia.

Total might be contributing to all sorts of planet-sizzling events, but at least its latest Big Blue machine is better for the environment than the last one. Total said the HPC requires 1.5MW of power, while its predecessor, Pangea II, built by SGI, needed a whopping 4.5MW.

Pangea III will be used for things like seismic data acquisition, modelling and analysis as Total explores whatever's left of the world's natural resources.

IBM's Power is an alternative CPU family based on a reduced instruction set computing (RISC) design strategy that has been knocking around since the mid '70s.

Big Blue doesn't actually make the chips – it went fabless in 2014, and its designs are etched into silicon by Global Foundries.

The company flogs a variety of Power-based servers, but it has been especially successful in supercomputing – both the 144 petaFLOPS Summit and 95 petaFLOPS Sierra, the world's most powerful supercomputers built for the US government, are based around Power9.

Among other features, these chips boast NVlink interconnect developed with Nvidia and optimised to take advantage of attached GPUs. Nvidia claims NVlink allows for 5.6x faster memory bandwidth between Power9 CPUs and its Tesla V100 GPUs than a comparable x86-based system equipped with a Xeon E5-2640 V4.

Tesla V100 is exactly the GPU variety used in Pangea III, alongside Power9 18C CPUs, clocked at 3.45GHz, more than 288TB of RAM and 50PB of storage. There's InfiniBand on the interconnect duties.

"Based on the same IBM technology found in Summit and Sierra, the world's smartest supercomputers, Pangea III demonstrates that IBM Power Systems are not just for the large government or research organisations," said David Turek, vice president of Exascale Systems for IBM Systems.

"The world's largest businesses, like Total, are now tapping that same technology to profoundly change how they operate." ®

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